Your Born Identity – Part 3.

You will have heard the oft-used phrase “I am a work in progress.” Perhaps you have used it yourself.  For myself, when I have used this phrase in the past, it has been a self-deprecating way to explain away my flaws or less-than-perfect behaviours.

It is ok to use this phrase about yourself, as long as it is a positive declaration about what changes are yet to come, and you are actively participating in the transformation process!  

This is Part 3 in a series on your new identity as a believer and disciple of the Christ.

As we discussed in Part 1, through the all-sufficient work of the Christ on the cross, God has declared you to have righteous standing before Him when you believe in the Messiah.  As a consequence, the Holy Spirit now dwells within you, transforming you from within. God the Father’s SAME surpassingly great power that He exerted to resurrect the Christ from the dead is now implanted in you, and in me, in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit in ALL His fullness.

In Part 2, we discussed the nature of covenant relationship, and in particular, the new covenant and your place in it.  You have now entered, and are under the unconditional terms of, a covenant relationship between you and the Lord. A covenant relationship always has 2 participants: under the new covenant, these are the Holy Spirit and you.

At the point of your faith in the completed work of the Christ on the cross, God has declared you to have righteous standing before Him, in Christ.  In other words, He has extended His righteous garments over you.  This declaration is as in a court of law:  all charges have been dismissed and your guilt and sentence of death removed.  In legal terms only, you have been declared to have righteous standing before Him.  The Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee of this declaration, and as an agent of change within you.  In theological terms, this is called justification.

From the point of faith onward, the Holy Spirit works with you in active partnership to put the new covenant into full effect within you, putting to death the things that don’t belong in your life any longer, and cultivating and growing moral righteousness – the full implementation of the gospel – into every area of your life, and also equipping you to effectively share the new covenant good news with everyone.  You cannot put the old nature to death on your own, and the Holy Spirit cannot work in you without your full active participation and consent.  In theological terms, this is called sanctification.

The process of sanctification within you is NOT optional.  In real terms, this is the response to God’s command from Leviticus 20:26, re-stated in 1 Peter 1:16:  “Be holy, because I am holy”.  The new covenant has not just saved your soul from death and hell, and fitted you for a heavenly dwelling place some day… it has restored and reinstated the image and glory of God within you that was present at creation before mankind sinned against God.  Under the new covenant, through the covenant (2-sided) process of sanctification, your life needs to progressively display more visible evidence of the glory of God.  In effect, sanctification is extending the kingdom of God within you.

In part this is about you, but only part… God loves you, and wanted to set you free from the bondage and death-grip of sin. Moreover, He loves you too much just to leave you as a newborn babe… having new life, but remaining there, with no growth or transformation.

But it is actually ALL about Him, about His design for creation, and mankind’s role (including your role) in His design to extend His glory throughout (and over) all creation.  That is the real purpose of the gospel… your new identity is not just about you, but about God and the work of His kingdom.  Through His new covenant relationship with you, the moral righteousness of the gospel is being extended through every part of you, transforming you to reflect the glory of God. But He also works this transformation within you to extend his kingdom outward into every area of creation, preparing the world and its people (His people) for Messiah’s return.  There will be more on this in Part 5.

This is why your new identity under the new covenant demands a covenant response.  Your life is not your own.  It belongs to Him – all of it.  The continual process of sanctification is the new covenant relationship at work within you – and it is hard work. The Holy Spirit is in partnership with you – as an active participant – to put into effect the gospel in all its fullness within you.  This does not enhance your declared righteous standing before Him, but it is reclaiming you as a representative and ambassador of God.

The process of sanctification extends morally righteous character into every area of your life, with your consent and involvement in continual choices.  As this morally righteous character grows within you, and the old nature is progressively put to death, (and it MUST be put to death), it is possible for your new identity, the morally righteous character, to become your normative response instead of your old way of doing things.

What is the litmus test of this covenant process of sanctification within you?  Obviously it is the evidence of change and growth in your life, to increasingly reflect God’s character in your thoughts, words and actions.

We like to work from lists and rules as evidence of our adherence to a standard of behaviour, (in this case “holiness”), but at best, lists and rules are not exhaustive but only illustrative of deeper principles and attitudes.  It is to these deeper principles and attitudes that we must go.

I have already referred to God’s instruction to “be holy, because I am holy”.  This is an underlying principle, but in God (and in those He considered righteous) it manifested itself not just in holiness, and justice, and righteousness, but in an attribute called “hesed“.  Hesed, translated in one bible version as “lovingkindness”, has a much deeper nuanced meaning which could be stated as “persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy”, and as “covenant faithfulness and love in action”.  This is a foundational character trait of God, evident in his behaviour toward His people.  Through the new covenant, hesed has been planted within us as part of our new identity.

This is identified by the Messiah when He summed up the Law: “Love the Lord your God with all your soul, heart, mind and strength”, and “love your neighbour as yourself”. Paul in Corinthians 13 identifies love as the foundational characteristic of the new covenant Spirit-filled life.  And in Galatians, Colossians and Ephesians, and in other places, the characteristics of the indwelling Holy Spirit are listed as visible evidence in your life (the “litmus” test) of the glory of God: “be kind to each other, tenderhearted; and forgive each other, just as in the Messiah God has also forgiven you.  So imitate God, as his dear children;  and live a life of love, just as also the Messiah loved us, indeed, on our behalf gave himself up as an offering…” (Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2)

This then, is the litmus test, which we can apply to ourselves, of the state of growth within us of His moral righteousness.  It is in the fruit that we are producing, both seen and unseen, and in the extension of His kingdom both within us and through us, that His moral righteousness, our kingdom effectiveness, is demonstrated – or not.

This self-test involves realistic self-examination and required course correction, asking yourself such questions as: “What is my focus?” “What is my response to people and situations?” “What are my desires?” “What thoughts, words, and behaviours in my life do not honour or bring glory to God, and must therefore be removed (put to death).?” Ask the Lord what HE wants YOU to do.

In this process of continual self-examination, listen to the Holy Spirit within you… and do so together with the Word of God open before you, which you need to be reading every day, to ensure that what you are hearing is from the Holy Spirit.  Look at the fruits in your life. Course correct and repent.  And then act on what you hear.

In doing so, beware of your own attempts to rationalize, justify, make excuses for, or explain away behaviours that are not ok.  This is equivalent to self-deception and a refusal to be an active participant along with the Holy Spirit in your sanctification for His glory.  Also, this process will be painful at times.  This is normal and necessary.

The litmus test is best administered through Galatians 5:13-21.  What fruits are being produced in your life?

If, for any reason, your thoughts, your words, or your behaviours illustrate the fruits of the old nature (the “flesh”), then they do not bring glory to God, no matter what you think your reasons or motivation might be.  In this case, recognize it, renounce it, and submit to actively participating in the Holy Spirit’s course correction.

In all circumstances, your thoughts, your words and your behaviours must illustrate the fruits of the indwelling Holy Spirit: if they do, you are bringing glory to God and giving evidence of His kingdom at work.

As a refresher, here are the lists from Galatians 5:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:
immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:19-26)

2 last thoughts…

First, the fruit of the Spirit need to be evident in all of your responses, unconditionally.. i.e. your actions, thoughts, words, etc. are not dependent upon circumstances, or upon the actions, thoughts, words, etc. of anyone else.  This is a process in sanctification.

Second, as we will discuss more in Part 5, the fruits of the Spirit are the building blocks of the kingdom of God.

In Part 4, we will look at your place and responsibility in the kingdom of God (why the covenant process of sanctification is necessary), and also provide kingdom perspective on blessing and suffering that we face.

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Your Born Identity – Part 2.

There is a figure in greek mythology named Prometheus, who is punished by the gods and chained to a rock, where an eagle came and subjected him to the torment of eating his liver away, only to have it grow back again and be eaten again the next day.

Too often this has become a picture of how we view God and how we live our lives… God as somehow distant and harsh and unconcerned with the suffering we face in our lives that we cannot escape from.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth for a believer and disciple of the Christ.

As we discussed in Part 1, through the all-sufficient work of the Christ on the cross, God has declared you to have righteous standing before Him when you believe in the Messiah.  As a consequence, the Holy Spirit now dwells within you, transforming you from within.

God the Father’s SAME surpassingly great power that He exerted to resurrect the Christ from the dead is now implanted in you, and in me, in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit in ALL His fullness.

Yet many of us who wear the label “Christian” seemingly give no evidence of this amazing fact.  We live “lives of quiet desperation” and have come to settle for so much less than what we have been made to be.

WHY IS THIS?

The problem lies in a misunderstanding of what was accomplished when you first believed, and what is at work within you now: the fundamental nature of your relationship with the Lord.  You have now entered, and are under the unconditional terms of, a covenant relationship between you and the Lord.

What is a “Covenant”?

First, a covenant relationship has 2 sides.  In a covenant, each party in the covenant agrees or commits to certain things, unconditionally.  Under the new covenant, there are things that the Lord alone can and will do… and there are things that you alone as a believer, and then a follower of the Christ, must do.  Initial belief or receiving Christ is itself an example of covenant:  He alone could have paid the once-for-all sacrifice to break the power of sin and death over you and reconcile you to God the Father, but it will have no effect upon you until you agree by faith.  The initial steps of the new covenant illustrate the covenant principle of two sides.

Second, a covenant relationship is not a contract.  Under a contract, if one of the parties or signatories to the contract violates their side of the agreement, then the contract is broken and both parties are released from their obligations.  By contrast, under a covenant, if one party violates their side of the covenant, the other party is NOT released from their commitments.  Commitments under covenant are unconditional, and not dependent on the actions of any other party.
Marriage was designed as a covenant, but unfortunately these days we often treat it as a contract instead.
The new covenant illustrates this unconditional and two-sided nature.  God has promised never to leave or forsake you, no matter what.  Yet you can choose to leave and forsake him for a time.  Hopefully you will not do so, but your actions will never cause Him to change his mind or his covenant commitment.

Third, a covenant relationship requires active participation.  Under covenant, both parties commit to active and on-going participation and fulfilment of their roles until the covenant is completed.  For instance, using the analogy of marriage, husband and wife partner together to put their commitments into full effect for the duration of the marriage, growing closer together.  The marriage would not grow or be healthy if one or both spouses checked out or took a passive stance in regard to the relationship.
The new covenant is like that.  Through the Christ, God has effected our freedom from sin and accomplished our reconciliation to Himself, should we choose to receive Him.  But that is only the beginning… To those who believe, He gives the indwelling Holy Spirit to partner with you to put the truth of the gospel into full effect in every area of your life, with your committed active partnership.  God has not checked out and left you on your own; nor can you check out of the process and expect Him to transform you with you as a passive participant.  The new covenant relationship, like marriage, is not an armchair sport.

Fourth, covenant requires sacrifice and exertion.  If you have been taught that life as a believer and follower of the Christ is going to be easy and comfortable, you have been sold a false product.  Any covenant, in part because of its unconditional nature,  is filled with challenge and hard work, to put into effect the covenant’s commitments. Under the new covenant, as a believer, the initial declaration of faith is the easy part. The subsequent implementation of the new covenant into every aspect of your life, for the entire remaining time of this temporal existence, is far more difficult.  It requires sacrifice, surrender, strength and steadiness on your part…in covenant partnership with the Holy Spirit, the fullness of Him that indwells you to work out your salvation to its completion.  You do not do this alone.

Fifth, covenant demands your very life.  Under covenant, you are bound to another in unconditional terms until the covenant is completed, and you cannot be part way in.  Just as God the Father did not spare His own Son, and just as He has given the Holy Spirit in all His fullness to you, your covenant response is your very life, in all areas at all times, to do His will and to bring Him glory.  Your life is no longer your own.

Sixth, the payoff of covenant is huge.  This is true of any covenant, and particularly true of the new covenant.  Also, while the covenant participants walk out the covenant to its completion, there are benefits along the way.  The best way to describe the nature of the new covenant is “already, in process, not yet” … Through the completed work of the cross, and one’s faith in Him and this completed work, the new covenant is already established in the believer; the Holy Spirit indwells the believer as a deposit and active covenant partner, working with the believer each day to extend the completed work into every area of the believer’s life in process; and awaiting the full completion of the covenant, not yet here, upon His return for His covenant people.

————————————————

At the point of your faith in the completed work of the Christ on the cross, God has declared you to have righteous standing before Him, in Christ.  In other words, He has extended His righteous garments over you.  This declaration is as in a court of law:  all charges have been dismissed and your guilt and sentence of death removed.  In legal terms only, you have been declared to have righteous standing before Him.  The Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee of this declaration, and as an agent of change within you.

From the point of faith onward, the Holy Spirit works with you in active partnership to put the new covenant into full effect within you, putting to death the things that don’t belong in your life any longer, and cultivating and growing moral righteousness – the full implementation of the gospel – into every area of your life, and also equipping you to effectively share the new covenant good news with everyone.  You cannot put the old nature to death on your own, and the Holy Spirit cannot work in you without your full active participation and consent.

————————————————————-

Commit to the fullness of the new covenant today… be prepared for hard work, but in partnership with the Holy Spirit, be prepared for victory as well. Press through to become the righteousness of God in all His fullness as a completed work and an effective disciple!

In Part 3, we will look at the litmus test of which nature – the old or the new – is being cultivated in your life and mine.

Your Born Identity – Part 1.

I am becoming more like my father every day.

One of the minor ways in which this is true is in all of the trivia that is stored in my mind.  An enduring memory is of him playing Trivial Pursuit (and beating all of us) through his recall of a vast array of seemingly random bits of information.

Yesterday, I had three seemingly random movie clips running through my brain.  The first was a clip from Hook, when Granny Wendy says to Peter Banning, “Peter… don’t you know who you are?  The stories are true!”  The second was from The Lion King, when the spirit of Mufasa speaks to Simba from the heavens “Simba, you have forgotten me… You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me!”  The third was from the Bourne Identity series, the story of a man who has twice lost his identity… the first time deliberately choosing to forget his former self, and the second time, after trauma, waking up to having no idea who he really was.

These all have a theme.  They came to mind after I had a conversation with a Christian man the other day who had no idea, or he had deliberately forgotten, or he had never been taught, who he really was.  He was living in fear, doubt, and frustration, and his life to all appearances looked no different than his friends who did not carry the label “Christian”.  “Don’t you know who you are?” “You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten Me.”

The distressing part of this story is that he isn’t alone.  There is an entire generation of believers in the Christ today who have no idea who they really are, and because of whose they are, how they are to live.

In Part 2 I will get into the actual nature of your new identity, and its consequences, but for now, there is an amazing fact you need to know:
“I pray that he will give light to the eyes of your hearts, so that you will understand the hope to which he has called you, what rich glories there are in the inheritance he has promised his people, and how surpassingly great is his power working in us who trust him. It works with the same mighty strength he used when he worked in the Messiah to raise him from the dead and seat him at his right hand in heaven…” (Ephesians 1:18-20)

Did you hear that?  Did you know that?  God the Father’s SAME surpassingly great power that He exerted to resurrect the Christ from the dead is now implanted in you, and in me, in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit in ALL His fullness.

That is the huge change that has taken place because, through the all-sufficient work of the Christ on the cross, God has declared you to have righteous standing before Him when you believe in the Messiah.  As a consequence, the Holy Spirit now dwells within you, transforming you from within.

You are different.  You must live differently.  You life is not your own. You belong to Him.  You have been empowered to live differently, to be light to this world.  That is your new born identity.  You have just forgotten, or you never really knew, who you really are in the Christ.  You have been made new!  You have been empowered to be made new in every part of your life, and you must put it into effect 🙂

You and I are called to become more like our heavenly Father every day.

Check out Part 2  on the nature of your new identity and why it matters.

Reprint: The 10 Lies the Church Tell Women

10 Lies the Church Tells Women
By J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine

We live in the 21st century, but if we’re honest we have to admit that in some ways the church is still in the Dark Ages—specially when we look at the way we treat women. Even though the Scriptures never portray women as secondary to men, our male-dominated religious system still promotes a warped view of female inferiority. Women are tired of this, and as a man, so am I because such demeaning attitudes don’t reflect God’s heart. Jesus challenged gender prejudice at its core when He directed so much of His ministry toward women. In a Middle Eastern culture that considered women mere property, He healed women, discipled them and commissioned them to minister. Yet today we spend much of our energy denying them opportunities and using the Bible to defend our prohibitions. I’ve identified 10 erroneous views about women that for too long have been circulated in the church, preached from pulpits and written in the study notes of popular Bible translations. I believe we must debunk these lies if we want to see the church fully released to fulfill the Great Commission.

Lie #1. God’s Ultimate Plan for Women is That They Serve Their Husbands

How sad that so many Christian men view women from a selfish perspective. This view is often promoted by misreading the account of Eve’s creation in Genesis 2:18-25, in which Adam is provided a “helpmate.” The Hebrew word used here often is translated “companion,” denoting intimacy and partnership. But through the centuries it has been used to imply that Eve was some type of domestic appendage. We men have assumed that God gave Eve to fulfill Adam’s sexual needs as well as to serve as his cook, laundress and maid. But the Genesis account does not say this. After Eve’s creation, God did not tell her: “You are Adam’s helper; I command you to serve him well.” She was not created for servitude; she was fashioned to be a co-laborer with Adam so that they might rule together over creation as God commissioned them to do (see Gen. 1:28).

Lie #2. Women Can’t Be Fulfilled or Spiritually Effective Without a Husband

From the time she was released from a German death camp in 1944 until her death in 1983, Corrie Ten Boom taught the world about a Savior who could forgive the cruelest Nazi. Yet she never married. Did the fact that she did not have a husband make her less “complete”? Some Christians would say yes. We have spent so much energy defending the concept of the biblical family that we are guilty of idolizing it. We’ve preached that a woman’s primary responsibility is to find a godly husband, have lots of babies and stay home to raise them for Christ. But marital status is not a qualifier for ministry. The Bible does not even state whether certain key followers of Jesus, such as the 12 disciples, were married or not. The highest calling of all believers married or unmarried is to develop a relationship with Jesus. Any other earthly relationship is secondary, and Christ Himself warned us never to allow people we love to become idols that distract us from Him.

Lie #3. Women Shouldn’t Work Outside the Home

Many evangelical churches have preached that women who work outside the home are breaking a scriptural commandment, but this conclusion can be reached only by distorting the biblical record. The woman described in Proverbs 31 is often used to bolster a traditional view of the June Cleaver-style matron who spends her day baking casseroles while her husband is at the office. But a careful reading reveals that the Proverbs 31 woman, in her ancient Middle Eastern context, functioned as a real estate agent and ran a textile business. Titus 2:5 instructs women to “take care of their homes” (New Living Translation). But most scholars would agree that this passage simply exhorts married women not to forsake their children. It is true that, because of ambition or materialism, some Christian women neglect their children even though the Holy Spirit has urged them to put their career objectives on hold. But rather than placing a legalistic burden on women by telling them that having a career is ungodly, we should tell both men and women to submit their career plans to the Holy Spirit’s direction.

Lie #4. Women Must Obediently Submit to Their Husbands in All Situations

A distraught Christian woman who was regularly beaten by her husband finally gained the courage to seek counsel from her pastor. After she told him about her husband’s fits of rage, the pastor responded, “If your husband kills you, it will be to the glory of God.” The pastor reached this irresponsible conclusion because of a distorted view of “male headship.”

We often portray marriage as a hierarchy, with husbands on the throne and wives at the footstool, and we use Scripture to justify this view: “Wives…submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). We assume this verse means women have no say in family matters or that their opinion is second-rate. In extreme cases, women have been told to submit to abuse in order to honor male headship. But this is not a Christian view. Paul also told the Ephesians, “submit to one another” (5:21, emphasis added). I have heard teachings by male clergy on the subject of male headship, but I’ve never heard a pastor encourage men to submit to their wives! Yet in a loving marriage, a man and woman will defer to one another as they make decisions.

In my 16 years of marriage, my wife and I have had plenty of disagreements. But when we reach an impasse, I don’t announce, “I am the head of this house, so what I say goes.” Rather, Deborah and I either agree to pray about the matter, or we choose to defer to one another. The point is never who is in charge. I view my wife as an equal. I am not “over her.” We function as one.

Lie #5. A Man Needs to “Cover” a Woman in Her Ministry Activities

This idea came from a distorted interpretation of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “the head of woman is man” (NKJV). People have used these words to bolster the idea that women are subservient to men or that they cannot approach God without a male authority figure in their lives. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 about head coverings is a difficult passage, and Bible scholars don’t agree on its meaning. However, most teach that Paul is addressing specific cultural concerns in first-century Corinth and that he is calling for propriety and order in a society where immorality and paganism had blurred gender distinctions. Paul was not placing men in a position of generic rulership over women. Because there is “no male or female in Christ” (see Gal. 3:28), women can pray, worship, study the Bible or minister without a man present. How silly to think that a man, because of his gender, could add credibility to prayer or Spirit-empowered ministry! To believe this would be to trust in the flesh.

Lie #6. A Woman Should View Her Husband as the” Priest of the Home”

Search your concordance. Scripture never describes men as “priests of the home.” This man-made concept was popularized in evangelical churches in the last century. We have one priest, Jesus Christ, whose blood atoned for our sins. It is a mockery of the gospel to suggest that any human being needs an additional priest apart from the Son of God. The Bible says all believers are priests (see 1 Pet. 2:9, Rev. 1:6); there is no gender restriction.

Husbands function as priests when they pray for their families or when they minister the Word of God to them, and wives also function in this role. My experience in marriage has been that God speaks both to me and to my wife. He doesn’t say to me, “Since you are the head of this house, I’ll tell you my plans for your family, and you can tell the others what I said.”

Often God has revealed His plans to my wife before I heard anything! Christian men need to stop being defensive and recognize that God has called us to function in unity with our wives. We need to listen to their counsel, consider their opinions, and pray together for the mind of the Lord rather than putting our foot down and shouting, “I am the leader of this family, and what I say goes!”

Lie #7. Women Are Not Equipped to Assume Leadership Roles

The most common mistake we make in biblical interpretation occurs when we take one isolated verse and build a doctrine around it—even if the verse seems to contradict other passages. This is often what we do with 1 Tim. 2:12, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” (NASB). Most theologians believe that this passage was addressing an isolated situation in Ephesus. They came to this conclusion after studying the myriad of references in the Bible to women in spiritual authority.

The Old Testament records that Deborah was a judge over Israel and God blessed her leadership in battle (see Judg. 4-5). Other women who held authority over men include Miriam, Huldah and Noadiah. Jesus issued His first gospel commission to women (see Matt. 28:1-10), and both men and women were empowered to preach on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Priscilla, Chloe and Phoebe were leaders in the early church, and one woman, Junia, is called an apostle by Paul (Rom. 16:7).

The promise of the prophet Joel was that “sons and daughters” would prophesy after the Holy Spirit was given to the church (Joel 2:28, emphasis added). Yet we have taken one misunderstood verse from Paul’s writings and used it to negate hundreds of other passages that support the full release of women into ministry.

Lie #8. Women Must Not Teach or Preach to Men in a Church Setting

Since 1 Timothy 2:12 obviously contradicts the overall biblical endorsement of women in authority, how are we to understand it? What is Paul actually saying in this passage? In their book I Suffer Not a Woman, Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger explain that certain cultic worship practices involving female priestesses of Diana had invaded the first-century church. These priestesses promoted blasphemous ideas about sex and spirituality, and they sometimes performed rituals in which they pronounced curses on men and declared female superiority.

What Paul was most likely saying to the Ephesians was this: “I do not allow a woman to teach these cultic heresies, nor do I allow them to usurp authority from men by performing pagan rituals.” He was not saying, as some Christians have assumed, “I do not allow godly Christian women to teach the Bible.” In his day, Paul would have been thrilled to have had more skilled women who could teach the truth!

Lie #9. Women Are More Easily Deceived Than Men

This idea has been taught by twisting the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:14, which says, “It was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression” (NLT). Some have suggested that because Eve was tricked by the devil, women have a stronger propensity toward deception. Others have gone so far as to insist that women are to blame for all the evil in the world and are therefore under a greater curse than men.

No respectable Bible scholar in the church today would promote such a view. The Bible clearly states that Adam and Eve were both held guilty by God for their disobedience, and they were both punished. In 1 Timothy, Paul cited the creation account not to place extra blame on Eve but to refute a bizarre teaching that was circulating in Asia Minor.

In the first century, Gnostic heretics were mixing Christianity with paganism. One of their teachings stated that Eve actually liberated the world when she disobeyed God and gained secret knowledge from the devil. Paul was not teaching that women are more prone to deception. He was explaining that what Eve did was not right, and that the Christian view of the creation was that Adam and Eve sinned when they listened to the serpent.

Women are certainly capable of spreading deception because they have a fallen nature as men do, but there is no evidence that they have greater gullibility. That view is rooted in demeaning stereotypes and prejudice.

Lie #10. Women Who Exhibit Strong Leadership Qualities Have a “Spirit of Jezebel”

Once I was listening to Bible teacher Cindy Jacobs speak at a prayer conference in Colorado. When she approached the pulpit, two men who were sitting in front of me turned to each other and began to pray softly. “Lord, we bind the power of the devil from bewitching this audience,” one man said, adding, “We bind the power of Jezebel in the name of Jesus.” These men believed that the crowd would automatically come under a spirit of deception when Jacobs taught them—implied because she was a woman. How absurd! Was Barak “deceived” when he took orders from Deborah? (See Judg. 4:14.)

Did baby Jesus come under a harmful influence when Anna prophesied over Him? (See Luke 2:36-38.) Was Apollos spiritually emasculated when he submitted to the teaching of Priscilla? (See Acts 18:26.) Of course not! To associate godly women with Jezebel, a wicked Old Testament despot, is unfair and offensive, yet men in the church today often pin Jezebel’s label on strong, anointed women because they feel threatened by them.

Let’s stop the insults. If a woman is using manipulation to usurp authority or if she is spreading heresies, then she certainly deserves the Jezebel label—s do men who do such things. But women who walk in spiritual integrity and preach the Word of God with power deserve our respect.

– J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, is the author of Ten Lies the Church Tells Women (Creation House).

It’s Time For You to Make a Compelling Argument!

There is a passage in the bible about the Great Commission where our Messiah said…

16 “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many ;
17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come ; for everything is ready now.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’
19 “Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’
20 “Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’
21 “And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’
22 “And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’

This has been variously interpreted over the years, i.e. as being about unbelievers willfully ignoring the invitation of salvation.

When read in context, it is worse than that.  Those who ignored the master’s invitation were not outsiders, but believers already under His covenant that didn’t value Him or honor Him.  And the invitation was not to enter His covenant but to join with Him in celebration of covenant renewal and restoration at His table.

It is a sobering reminder to us as His disciples to not get so focused on our own cares, concerns, issues or agendas, that we miss out on the joy of worship, of celebration and of listening to – and doing – what HE considers to be important.  There is also a huge warning attached… this “missing out” is permanent.  The invitation is revoked.

As our Messiah continued:

23 “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.
24 ‘For I tell you, none of those men who were [previously] invited [and refused to come to my celebration] shall taste of my dinner.’ ”

Unfortunately much of what we focus on in our lives and in our churches is stuff He would consider unimportant because it focuses on our desires and our ways instead of Him and His ways.  We were never created to do our own thing apart from Him or His purposes.

We were created to do His will and make His glory evident.  That’s it. And in this season that is the Great Commission. 

‘ “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.’

We are to compel those who don’t know Him to enter into His Kingdom.

An old misinterpretation of the word “compel” led to forced conversions over the centuries, and also for many centuries resulted in a legislated theo-centric communitas christiana.  Unfortunately many Christians would still prefer to have a legislated Christian society, which is not at all what the Great Commission is about.  One cannot force or legislate a change of heart and mind.

A couple of years ago I even had someone tell me that this “compel” meant that we strong-arm people into the Kingdom of God by the force of our arguments and the warfare of our prayer and by our dominion we possess in Christ.  Wrong again… we are not the focus nor are results the fruit of our efforts.

And “to come in” does not mean to bring them into our churches so that somehow by osmosis they will absorb what it means to be a follower of Christ.  “Come in” means to enter joyfully into the Kingdom of God which is not the same as your church.

Each one of us is to carry out the Great Commission out in our world, to go out into the highways and byways and our families and our workplaces and our neighborhoods, to make Him known.

So what does this mean, “to compel”?

It is all tied up with our purpose for being, and with where the focus belongs – on Him.
We were created to do His will and make His glory evident.  That’s it.

Compel… not as in force or legislate, but compel as in providing a compelling and irresistible argument. And the strength of the argument is not in our persuasiveness or eloquence or cleverness, but in the whole package of our very lives.

The most compelling argument for the existence of God and the need for a saviour is the visible evidence of your life, when it is lived for Him, according to His purposes and His Word, reflecting His love and His mercy and His unchanging nature.  This shows forth His glory and makes Him known to those around you.

The consequence of self-absorption and not focusing on Him is not just a personal stake.  It takes our attention and energy away from making Him known to those who we are uniquely situated to impact by virtue of our place in the classroom, the workplace, the marketplace or our neighborhoods.

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People around you are living lives of quiet desperation, and want to believe.  Through the visible evidence of your life, go out with intent today to present a compelling argument so that the people around you will want to enter the Kingdom of God.  Show forth His Glory!

Forgiving and Forgetting

In the kingdom of God, He chooses to forgive and He chooses to forget our sin. We are taught in this world that the ability to remember things is very powerful, but in the kingdom of God, the opposite is true… God’s greater power and sovereignty is displayed by His choice to forgive and forget.

Yet forgetting is not quite what we think… does God truly will Himself to forget? Maybe… although I think the picture of forgetfulness is that He knows, but chooses to not hold it against us any longer. The scripture “I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12) is thus that God chooses to remove the sin from the list of charges against us in the dock.

The difficult part is that, in the kingdom of God, He calls us to do the same.

A very challenging commandment, just after what we call the Lord’s prayer, is “if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.” (Matthew 6:14-15).

The difficult part is that He makes no exceptions to this.
The helpful part is that He will enable us to do so, but we have to be a willing and active participant in the process.

I have been hurt deeply many times by other people, and the worst of it is, often from others who call themselves Christians.
Yet the imperative to forgive still applies… and is sometimes a process… even though it is the most difficult thing that I have ever done. And He has given me the strength to do so. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive, and there is no offense so great that I am released from forgiving the person who committed the offense.

On many occasions I have held onto the offense and chose not to forgive. Yet this puts me in a dangerous place before God, and moreover, my life will get stuck in a holding pattern until I forgive (no forward motion).

On rare occasions, as He and I have covenanted to forgive another’s offense against me, He has given me the grace to actually forget the offense. Strange as it might seem, I cannot remember the details of that offense.

But the normal case is that I choose to forgive, even though it is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and it is a process. He gives me the strength to forgive. But I still remember and I do not forget.
But let me clarify… when I say I do not forget, it is like what I said about Hebrews 8:12 when God forgets our sin. I still remember the details, but I no longer hold the offense against the other person. Thus I have “forgotten” in kingdom of God terms, even though I remember what happened.

We need to be quick to forgive. The longer we nurse an offense (and I am not minimizing the hurt of an offense), the harder it becomes to forgive and “forget”. Also, refusing to really forgive actually gives the offense continuing power over us.

Forgiveness is not just an intellectual exercise. It involves the spirit, the mind and the body. It requires action, not just to release and forgive the offense, but actually do the opposite of the offense. This might even mean engaging in positive and practical activity toward the person who committed the offense.

For me, this is the litmus test of whether I have forgiven or not.
Does the remembrance of the event, or a fresh encounter with the person, recall fresh offense or bitterness, or can I remember the offense without being re-offended?
If I can remember the details but “forget” the offense, if remembering or encountering the person who caused the offense does not cause continued bitterness or fresh offense, then I know that I have truly forgiven.

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But I have to choose to forgive, and will myself to forgive, and He will enable me to do so. He calls each of us to this, and there are no exceptions, either in the offense that we must forgive, or in His strength which enables us to forgive… and “forget”.

Forgiveness – It’s in You to Give

There are many difficult things that each of us will face in our lives.  Burying a loved one.  Loss of job.  Broken relationship with someone.  Bankruptcy.  Betrayal.  Persecution.  Bullying.  Sickness.  Just getting through another day.  And we can wonder why these difficult things happen to us.

These difficult circumstances that we face will stretch aspects of our character – demanding of us to show unconditional love, to trust people again and continue to trust that God really knows what He’s doing, to be patient with annoying and difficult people, and to persevere when everything and everyone around us says we should quit.

Yet the most difficult thing we will ever have to do – and we do have to do it – is to forgive someone, and to forgive them in the same way and to the same measure that God forgives us.  Now that’s hard.  But He enables us to do it in His strength, and expects us to put forgiveness into effect, no matter what.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asked Jesus how many times was he to forgive someone who hurt him, and Jesus repled, “seventy times seven”.  The parable indicates that, when someone begs for forgiveness and mercy, we are to give unconditional forgiveness.  Jesus also taught that, if we refused to forgive others, that the Father would not forgive us.

Such a difficult teaching… and even if we can intellectually get our heads around it, putting it into practice is an entirely different matter.

But it is so important to put it into practice – beyond the spiritual consequences that Jesus warned about, there is a very pragmatic result: until you and I forgive – not just intellectually but practically and tangibly live it out – you and I will be stuck in a holding pattern, and God will be unable to move you forward until you do.  And the forgiveness in you and me has to be real and unconditional with visible inward and outward evidence.

It is most difficult when the object of your unforgiveness / forgiveness is someone of whom you have regular reminders, or with whom you have regular contact – especially when they repeatedly re-offend.
I have been in this situation many times…

As a side note – If you are in a dangerous situation, physically or mentally, by all means remove yourself from it for a time.  But this practical requirement does not remove the need and instruction that you and I MUST forgive.

The need and instruction to forgive – even then – is unconditional.

To put it in terms which may offend our Canadian, post-modern, secular sensibilities – unforgiveness is a SIN.  No mitigating circumstances are given in scripture where it is deemed “okay” to live and breathe another day in unforgiveness.

Yet we all try to place conditions or escape clauses on the commandment that we forgive those who hurt us and sin against us.  Here are a few examples of the excuses we make:

a) conditional forgiveness – I will forgive you, but first… (add your own list). We add pre and post-conditions to our so-called forgiveness, but at the first sign of behaviour we don’t like, we bring up the catalog of offences.
It’s time to ditch the catalog and ditch the conditions.

b) payback – payback is closely related to conditional forgiveness, and may sound something like, “I’m going to make you suffer for a while before I forgive you”, or “I’ll let you know when you’re forgiven”.  Our goal in this is punishment, not forgiveness.

c) mitigating circumstances – we attempt to release ourselves from the need to forgive by saying to ourselves, and others, “you don’t know what they did.  If you knew, then you’d understand that I cannot forgive them.”  I tried this one on what is now a very memorable occasion for me, and I complained to God about how badly someone had treated me.  God then reminded me that He DID know and He showed me an image of the crucifixion and the forgiveness He showed. Then He said to me “Now go and do the same”.  Ouch.

d) I’ve forgiven but not forgotten – how many times have you heard or said this?  This is true in human understanding, but this is not the measure to which God forgives.  He says in His Word “I will remember their sins no more“… deliberately choosing to forget.  We cannot do this in our own strength, but in His… and while we will still remember the details of the offense, we will remember the details without re-opening the wound and being offended all over again.  He will enable us to release and forget the offense.

e) they haven’t asked for forgiveness – sometimes we take the Matthew 18 scripture above out of context and say, “Well I would forgive but they need to ask me first”.  There are enough other references to unforgiveness in scripture to indicate that unforgiveness itself is a SIN, and that to hold onto unforgiveness, for whatever reason, puts YOU and I into jeopardy and a position of bondage, sickness, bitterness, etc.  In unconditional forgiveness, you and I forgive even before someone asks, and even if they never do ask.
In unconditional forgiveness lies personal freedom.

f) running away from the problem – we can fool ourselves that, if we run away from the person or circumstance that caused the offense – or who we haven’t forgiven – then it will go away and you and I will be alright.
Nothing could be further from the truth.  Whether it is just the peculiarities of life circumstances, or whether God Himself has a direct hand in it, we will encounter again in someone else or in a different circumstance the same issue we ran away from.  It may manifest differently, but we carry the problem with us because it is you and I that have not forgiven.  And it is time – today – to release and forgive that He might begin the healing process in you.  That way lies freedom.

g) time heals everything – NOT.  Time, by itself, heals nothing.  Time allows scabs to grow over old wounds, but we pick at them and bleed again. Time allows experiences to go below the surface, but under similar circumstance or under pressure, they come back to the surface.  We need to walk continually in forgiveness and stop walking and living and breathing as the walking wounded.  In forgiveness is freedom and healing, in time.

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There are other excuses we make – but all excuses are based only upon unforgiveness – because we find it hard to forgive, or we don’t want to forgive, or we foolishly think that it’s OK with God, given the details of my circumstance, to not forgive.

But there are no mitigating circumstances.  NONE.

Think of the cross and the forgiveness it implies, even to us who didn’t deserve it, who mock it, who didn’t ask for it, who never knew we needed it…  Think of the freedom that resulted.

God’s love, and the measure of His forgiveness that He gives to us, and then desires for us to go and do likewise, is shown in Hosea 3, where Hosea is told to go and love his adulterous wife again who has repeatedly been unfaithful and caused repeated heartache and offense… just as God says He pursues and loves and forgives His people who continually sin against Him.  He forgives even though forgiveness is undeserved.

Forgiveness is a choice we MUST make, IF we are to be free and move forward.

It is the most difficult thing you and I will ever have to do – but we are commanded to do it, no matter what.  He will give us the extra-ordinary strength to do it, and walk it out.  That way lies freedom and He will lead us into healing and restoration.

Who do you need to forgive today? What catalog of offenses are you carrying forward in bondage?  Begin the forgiveness process today – and let Him set you free.